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Suspicious fire damages hall

PUBLISHED: 21:00 27 April 2004 | UPDATED: 04:49 02 March 2010

ARSONISTS are believed to have started a blaze which devastated a Suffolk village hall today.

More than 30 firefighters spent around three hours tackling the blaze at Chamberlin Hall in Bildeston.

ARSONISTS are believed to have started a blaze which devastated a Suffolk village hall today.

More than 30 firefighters spent around three hours tackling the blaze at Chamberlin Hall in Bildeston.

Dozens of villagers crowded around the ruin as the emergency services cleaned up and tried to discover the cause this morning.

The fire is thought to have started in a large wheelie bin that was outside the building. The flames quickly spread to its wooden roof.

Six fire engines and a turntable ladder were still at the scene almost three hours later.

Assistant Divisional Officer Paul Seagar said: "We received a call at about 5am from someone who thought a car was on fire.

"A crew from Hadleigh were first to arrive on the scene and they found the bins alight with the flames spreading to the roof.

"They immediately summoned further assistance and other crews arrived from Hadleigh, Needham Market, Stowmarket, Ipswich, Sudbury and Haverhill."

In total six fire engines and nearly 40 staff arrived on the scene to deal with the fire. The Salvation Army were on hand to provide refreshments.

Mr Seagar added: "We are treating the fire as suspicious at it looks like it was deliberately started."

"If anyone saw or heard anything suspicious in the vicinity of the hall in the early hours of the morning, they can contact us."

Chamberlin Hall is very important to the community, it is booked for weddings and other celebrations and holds regular dances, comedy nights and provides entertainment for the elderly.

Each weekday morning the hall is used as a playgroup for children from 9am until noon.

Sarah McKendric's house in Chamberlin Close, backs onto the hall, the 43-year-old, who lives with her husband and two children Jack, eight and Harriet, 12, said: "I woke up at about 5.15am and already the flames were coming up to the roof at the side of the building. Jack thought he heard a girl scream, but it might have just been a dream.

"We quickly evacuated the house as we were scared the fire might spread to our home. At that time there was only one fire engine at the scene."

Retired Patricia and Terry O'Shea live next door and also witnessed the drama. Mrs O'Shea said: "I woke up at 5.10am and heard people shouting. I looked out and saw the fire from my bedroom window.

"I saw that the roof was well alight with thick smoke. The neighbours were all out crowded in the road as they were worried that the fire might spread to the conifers nearby and then to their houses."

"We are devastated. The hall is a lovely building, it holds Christmas meals, weddings and other celebrations. It will be a sad loss as it was a great asset to the village.

"On Saturday night we went to a comedy night and disco where more than 100 people attended. The hall was well used by the village."


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